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Crangle is quick to thank retired ref Smyth for his years of service

By Graham Luney

Experienced Irish League official Raymond Crangle has sent his best wishes to referee Mervyn Smyth, who announced his retirement with immediate effect after the County Antrim Shield final.

Smyth came in for stinging criticism from Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter, who labelled his decision to send off Paul Heatley "an embarrassment".

Heatley's hand caught Mark Stafford's face and Smyth brandished a red card, a decision which helped the Blues - who were already 2-0 ahead - to go on and lift the trophy with a 3-1 victory. Although the criticism following the final would have hurt Smyth, it is understood that the 41-year-old had planned to leave the refereeing stage after the decider. Fifa referee Crangle, who was the fourth official at the Ballymena Showgrounds, is keen to thank Smyth for his service and wish him well in the future.

"On behalf of the Northern Ireland Referees' Association and the refereeing family in Northern Ireland, I'd like to wish Mervyn all the best in the future in whatever he decides to do and thank him for his service," said Crangle.

"Myself personally, I'd like to see him return to the game in some capacity. We thank him for all the years of service he gave to the game at all levels including representing Northern Ireland as a Fifa official.

"I know there has been criticism of Mervyn's performance on Tuesday night but my understanding is that he wanted to go out after that game."

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